Foundation, District Grants to Fund Seeds of Service Project

A portable year-round greenhouse that will allow Magnificat High School students to expand on the school’s highly successful Seeds of Service project will be funded as the result of a $5,000 grant from the Rotary Club of Lakewood and Rocky River and Rotary District 6630. With construction of a hoop house greenhouse on Magnificat’s property, the project is slated to involve over 150 students and deliver more than 200 pounds of fresh, organically-grown produce to the Rocky River and Lakewood Food Banks. In addition to the greenhouse, funds from Rotary will be used for heavy duty gardening equipment and a commercial-grade produce scale.

Seeds of Service addresses Rotary’s priorities in the areas of job training (entrepreneurial education), youth leadership, and health ministry. Through the program, students will collaborate in teams to plan and manage a year-round, complex food garden to maximize agricultural output in an environmentally and financially sustainable fashion. The project’s long-term goal is to produce enough food to expand donations to the Domestic Violence Center and St. Colman’s parish in Cleveland.

Mary Jo Rawlins, director of the Seeds of Service Project, has served on the staff of Magnificat High School as Campus Ministry Associate for seven years. She is a certified Master Gardener, having received her certification through The Ohio State University Extension program. Ms. Rawlins established Seeds of Service as a pilot program at the Rocky River Community Garden last year. Ms. Rawlins and the pilot program were honored with a Certificate of Special Recognition by the City of Rocky River and Mayor Pamela Bobst. The program engaged a dozen students and delivered approximately fifty pounds of food to the Rocky River Food Bank.

The Seeds of Service Project is the only local school project specifically organized to engage students in sustainable agricultural activities on school grounds and to donate all of its harvest to local community food banks, ensuring that those most in need in our community have access to fresh, organic produce.

The hoop house is a semi-permanent, year-round 16 x 32 greenhouse that can withstand the elements, is ADA compliant, and can accommodate a class of 25 students at a time. The greenhouse will include a gutter system for collecting and recycling rainwater for garden irrigation and suspended growing benches to maximize growing space. Its addition will allow the project to deliver enough fresh produce through the food banks to supplement 305 meals per month, nine months per year, for a total of 2,145 meals per year, impacting the eating habits and general health of those families served.

Magnificat students enrolled in biology, earth sciences, and chemistry classes will gain hands-on experience in establishing and maintaining an ecologically sound, organic produce garden, and students in the Sustainability Club, Social Justice Club, Key Club and Business Club will learn to establish and operate a socially-responsible, financially self-sufficient community service operation.

Ms. Rawlins estimates that each year, over 2,000 families in the Rocky River and Lakewood communities will benefit from the fresh produce donated to the local food banks, and approximately 170 students annually will benefit from the job and leadership training provided through the project.

Each spring, students in the Seeds of Service Project will cultivate seedling plants and seeds for sale and offer community workshops on eco-friendly gardening to raise the funds necessary for sustaining the program.

Rotarians will offer assistance with tending of the garden during the three summer months that school is not in session, mentoring the Business Club students in planning and executing the spring sale of seedlings and seeds, and assisting with transporting the produce to the food banks.

Lynn Donaldson

Rotary Club of Lakewood & Rocky River

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Volume 10, Issue 6, Posted 5:07 PM, 03.18.2014